This Past Week Was A Real Test Of My Emotional Strength
These last seven days were difficult, but I made it through.
Posted Aug 02, 2015
It was a hell of a week. I feel as though since I started to gain back my emotional health, this was my first real test of its strength and my resiliency.
Two weeks ago when I took my beloved cat to the vet to have her nails trimmed, the technician told me she had lost a pound since April, two pounds since the beginning of the year. “That’s a lot for a cat,” she told me. “She needs a checkup.”
A friend suggested she had been traumatized by my being away for a month when I was training for my new job. I spoke to the vet and he said to bring her in four weeks later for a weight check. If she had gained, okay, if she had lost or stayed the same, time for some further investigation. However that weekend, I noticed that she was eating significantly less and was acting very lethargic, laying in one place most of the day. I became worried and set up an appointment for a Saturday, which I soon moved up to a Thursday evening.
Monday, I had an appointment with a cardiologist who belonged to the same medical group as my primary care physician. I had experienced two instances of crushing chest pain; one was at the urgent care center after I had received a nebulizer treatment the Friday of the weekend that I was hospitalized for the asthma attack and one was at home about a month later. Both had stunned me and left me doubled over and crying.
The cardiologist who walked in (I didn’t recognize him, nor had I recognized his name) reminded me that I had seen him three years ago. Back then I had still been quite ill in the midst of anorexia and depression. I explained to him what had been going on. He spent five minutes with me. After getting dressed and walking into his office, he told me what I was experiencing was “anxiety” and that I should “think more positively.”
I was infuriated. I was convinced he came to the appointment with a preconceived notion of me from three years ago, not with an open mind. Later that evening I discussed the outcome of the appointment with my psychiatrist, Dr. Adena (not her real name). She agreed I should seek a second opinion.
Wednesday morning I saw a female cardiologist at a Women’s Heart Center in Manhattan. I had seen her several months ago and she had done a echo stress cardiogram which had been normal. This time was different. This time she told me what I was experiencing were coronary artery spasms which were more common in women with migraines.
According to the Heart Health Center, “one of the arteries that supplies blood to your heart (a coronary artery) may go into spasm and constrict (tighten). This reduces blood flow to your heart. This is called coronary artery spasm, or vasospasm. It's also called variant angina or Prinzmetal's angina.”
The cardiologist increased a medication that I was already taking (for Raynaud’s Syndrome) that is a calcium channel blocker which is typically used in the treatment of coronary artery spams. Hopefully it will prevent any future episodes. I have to return to see her in three weeks.
The shock of having a heart condition hit me hard. Not only that but the coronary artery spasms are my third chronic medical condition, on top of the chronic obstructive asthma and the migraines, and the second to be diagnosed in 2015.
It’s as though I fought so hard to become emotionally healthy only to be struck down by chronic physical illness. I’m still adjusting to this latest diagnosis. I’ve done some reading, but I have some questions to ask the cardiologist.
After seeing the cardiologist on Wednesday morning I continued to midtown Manhattan, where I had a meeting for work in the afternoon. It was the hottest day of the summer so far in New York City along with a high degree of humidity. I met a group of colleagues for lunch before the meeting and together we walked to this office. Towards the end of the meeting, I started to cough and I felt my chest start to tighten up. I felt a lot of mucus building up. I couldn’t stop coughing.
The meeting ended at 5 PM. Rush hour. My asthma attack continued to worsen. I knew I needed a nebulizer treatment and that I couldn’t wait the hour and a half it would take me to drive home in rush hour traffic to use my nebulizer machine. I went to an urgent care center in Manhattan, got a breathing treatment and the doctor there started me back on prednisone. I didn’t really want to because I haven’t lost the weight I gained from the last course yet, but I knew I needed to. She gave me a dose in the office and another four days to take at home.
I had left my apartment at 6:00 AM to make the early appointment with the cardiologist and I arrived back home, after picking up the prescriptions for the calcium channel blocker and the prednisone close to 8:30 PM. A long day. I was exhausted.
The next day Thursday, I made a careless mistake at work. The error didn’t affect any clients, it was more of a goof-up in a conference call that was evident to all who were participating. I was shaken and I disconnected myself before the call was over. I felt anxious and unable to concentrate for the rest of the day.
In the afternoon I had another asthma attack. I know it was triggered primarily by stress. I was able to treat it with my home nebulizer machine and later a couple of puffs of my albuterol inhaler, but it took time away from work, and it was about an hour before I felt stable again.
That night I took my cat to the vet’s office. I was crying as he examined her, fearing the worst. He said he didn’t feel any masses that could suggest cancer (thank God), but he wanted to take blood and urine. Friday, my vet, Dr. R. was off, but another vet from the practice called me. He said my cat’s thyroid was sky high — hyperthyroidism, which is not that uncommon in older cats — but she with that diagnosis, she should be running around and eating voraciously. He said he wanted to do an ultrasound of her abdomen and a chest x-ray to see if there was anything else going on.
I want only the best for Zoe and I want to do whatever is necessary to ensure her health, but I was also worried about the cost. I had already laid out $360 for the initial exam, blood work and urine analysis. I asked the other vet how much this additional testing would be and he said around $650. I realized later that they would have to sedate her and I didn’t know if this figure included that.
Zoe’s been through so much with me. I adopted her from a shelter right after my mother passed away. I went to the shelter with a friend and the cats were three to a cage. I put my hand in the cage and Zoe licked it and that’s how I chose her. She’s stuck with me through my breakdown and six hospitalizations from 2005 to 2008, we both mourned when I had to put my other cat to sleep in 2010 when she was found to have pancreatic cancer. And she endured my suicide attempt and two hospitalizations in 2014. She was right there with me night after night as I laid face down on the carpet and howled. I was very relieved that this was not cancer, but I also had to think about having enough money left over to pay the rent and ensuring that we both had a place to live.
Dr. R., the vet had suggested I try giving her some tuna fish which I did and once she got a taste of that the floodgates opened. She ate what I gave her and begged for more. And kept coming back for even more. And as I sit here writing Sunday afternoon, she hasn’t stopped eating the tuna and her treats. She woke me up twice in the middle of the night to ask for Bumblebee. And while she isn’t exactly running in circles, she is moving a lot more than she was before the weekend.
So I feel relieved. Instead of dropping her off at 8 AM Monday morning at the vet’s office, I’m going to call them at that hour and ask to speak to Dr. R. I’m going to tell him about the 180 degree change in her behavior and talk to him about just starting her on thyroid medication.
As far as my own medical situation, I need some time to get used to the idea. Coronary artery spasms have a good prognosis, once the right medication and dosage is found. I initially felt overwhelmed, but then Saturday morning I went for a long walk on the track near my apartment early in the morning. It wasn’t hot yet and the humidity had broken. I was listening to music and sorting my thoughts out at the same time. Then a couple of hours later, I went to a yoga class which was challenging. I didn’t know if I should have gone with the flare-up of my asthma. I couldn’t do all the poses, but that just serves to remind me that I’m no longer chasing the illusion of perfection.
Later that day I reached out to my cousin, my mother’s sister’s daughter who lives in Louisiana. I e-mailed her and told her everything that was going on and just asked her for some perspective. She was the perfect person to reach out to and she took the time to write a long e-mail back to me addressing every item on my list which I appreciated and I made sure to tell her so. At the end of her note, she said that my ability to reach out to her was a strength and that made me think. I don’t know if I could have done that a year ago and also been able to absorb the gift that my cousin gave me in her response.
This morning I worked out again, early, wrote in my journal, ran a couple of errands, and now I’m home indulging in one of my favorite pastimes — writing. I feel calmer, more at peace.
This too will pass. I realize that now. Everything will be okay. Namaste.